A few articles came out today about the NY deal with a few of the largest ISPs to help stop the traffic of child porn. I strongly agree with the principal and goal but this “deal” seems to be more a cash shakedown of large Internet providers and “feel good” public relations move. From what I read today, the ISPs are blocking about 88 newsgroups and scanning website content they host for image hashes. This is utterly pointless. There are many thousands of newsgroups on Usenet so what will prevent these “people” from posting their material to other newsgroups? They can/will move to different groups each and every time the ISP shuts down the group they are currently using. Usenet is replication based service so more then likely the person who posted the illegal material is not even on the ISP’s network.
A more logical solution, in my humble opinion, would be force the ISP to scan the incoming Usenet feeds for the file hashes and stop the content right there. Also, terminate the Internet access (and report to Fed’s) any user who attempts to post illegal material as identified via the hash.
Newsgroups have value, especially, in the IT world. The amount of great technical support information contained in groups where users help other users is immense. Many groups are discussion threads for all kinds of topics and shared interests. People talk about everything from books to programming to dealing with loss. Some of the photography and author groups are very impressive and get rather in depth.
However, newsgroups have a darker side. The vast majority of the binary groups (these allow file attachments to text posts) are havens for porn, of all types, and music/movie/software pirates. Viruses, Trojans, and key loggers are so common in these groups. I do wonder what will be next…will the RIAA now pressure the Attorney General to go after the music swapping newsgroups? Then will the MPAA and the BSA follow suit with more pressure for the government to mandate newsgroup content filtering? Who would be next? Would this start a slipper slope? I am not sure as these are well defined areas.
I am not part of the “Black Helicopter” crowd or share the Liberation view of no government control on individual rights. I am a realist at heart. I believe any body can go to far, as well as, not far enough. Law enforcement must crackdown on the offenders and the ISPs need to willingly cooperate, including reporting activity. I do not believe that it is the ISPs job to police, or filter, the Internet. Each person must be responsible for their own actions and content they interact with on the Internet. If a person sees illegal content then they should report it and Law Enforcement should take action. At the request of Law Enforcement, the content should be removed.
I guess, I do not want my blog, or anyone else’s content, to be judged by some individual person as offensive and be taken down. If it contains “illegal” information, then yes – take it down and terminate the user’s account, but if it is offensive to some users…well they should just go pound sand. This should be a legal determination, not a subjective one by the uninformed. The Internet is the ultimate expression vehicle of free speech and it should be protected.